In-N-Out Burger Serves Best Fast-Food to Cash-Strapped Consumers

February 9, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | CPG & FMCG | Promotions, Coupons & Co-op | Retail & E-Commerce

Regional quick-serve brands such as In-N-Out Burger, Raising Cane’s, Firehouse Subs, Taco Tote, Giordano’s Pizza and Pei Wei, continue to capture the highest customer satisfaction ratings, according to findings (pdf) from restaurant researcher Sandelman & Associates (via, reports RetailerDaily.

Moreover, as consumers seek inexpensive alternatives, the fast-food industry has responded, with 13% of fast-food chains posting statistically significant improvement in customer satisfaction in 2008 compared with 2007.

Over half of monitored fast-food chains (141 were monitored) had a higher overall customer satisfaction rating compared with 2007, according to Sandelman & Associates.

In-N-Out Burger, the hamburger chain in a few Western states with an oversized cult following, received top honors in Sandelman & Associates’ 2008 Quick-Track Awards of Excellence: Fully 60% of recent customers rated their last visit there “excellent” overall.

Raising Cane’s finished a close second. A fast-casual upstart that is poised to grow rapidly, Raising Cane’s specializes in providing high-quality fried chicken tenders and a variety of dipping sauces in a comfortable, casual setting. It has a small base of users compared with the fast-food giants, but 59% of those who recently patronized the chain rated their last visit “excellent” overall.

The Top 10 chains rated “excellent” overall in Sandelman & Associates’ Quick-Track study:


The quick-serve chains were ranked not only for overall satisfaction but also for various other aspects of the dining experience, such as taste of the food, speed of service, and value for the money.

In-N-Out Burger has the highest “excellent” rating on taste of the food and top-rated scores for quality of the ingredients, friendliness of the staff, accuracy in filling orders, and being “a place for someone like me.” In all, In-N-Out finished in the Top 3 on eight of 15 attributes tracked.

Other findings:

  • The chain with the most US units, Subway, earns top rating for healthy and nutritious food.
  • Sales leader McDonald’s is best when it comes to appeal to kids.
  • Little Caesars garners the top spot for value and affordability.
  • Upstart Raising Cane’s shines when it comes to service, garnering Top 3 “excellent” ratings on temperature of the food and accuracy in filling orders.
  • Firehouse Subs, a sub sandwich favorite in the Southeast, finishes in the Top 3 on four characteristics: taste or flavor of the food, quality of the ingredients, appeal to kids and temperature of the food.

“Clearly fast-food users are very satisfied with the overall dining experience,” says Bob Sandelman, CEO and founder of Sandelman & Associates. “Our Awards of Excellence winners, many of whom [sic] are smaller, regional brands, are raising the bar for the fast-food giants. And this customer satisfaction improvement is just what the economy ordered.”

About the findings: The awards are based on the quarterly syndicated Quick-Track research program conducted by San Clemente, Calif.-based Sandelman & Associates. The Quick-Track Awards of Excellence are based on ratings provided by the study’s respondents on fast-food chains they visited in the past three months. In all, Quick-Track surveyed more than 93,800 quick-service restaurant users in 75 US markets during 2008.

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